‘We will continue to be strong fighters in the spirit of our Commander Zîlan’
Pelşîn Koçgirî, a member of the YJA Star Command Council, remembers the guerrilla Zîlan who blew herself up in a military parade in 1996, emphasising that Zîlan's stance is more necessary today than ever.
On 30 June 1996, guerrilla Zîlan (Zeynep Kınacı) blew herself up at a Turkish military parade in Dersim in Northern Kurdistan, setting a beacon against the Turkish attacks on the Kurdish people. This action mobilised resistance and shook the Turkish occupiers in Northern Kurdistan. In an interview with ANF on the occasion of the anniversary of her self-sacrifice action and martyrdom, Pelşîn Koçgirî, a member of the command council of the Free Women's Troops (YJA Star), spoke about the impact of this action.
"Every month in our 50-year struggle has been marked by significant deeds, strong resistance and major changes. Nevertheless, the month of June stands out especially. June symbolises the union with the essence of Apoism, the internalisation of the Apoist philosophy and way of life. It is the month in which we defend this way of life and philosophy through the person of Abdullah Öcalan. Our comrade Zîlan expressed the highest form of defence of this philosophy of life in 1996.
As is known, there was a plot against Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] at that time. In fact, this marked the beginning of an international conspiracy. Zîlan was the first to recognise this plot and to fight against it. She was followed by our comrade Sema, who noticed the liquidation efforts by the conspiracy and set her body on fire in prison under the slogan 'There cannot be two suns in the sky' in 1998. Our comrade Gulan, who courageously resisted the liquidation efforts during the June 1 offensive of our party in 1999, also fell this month. Through the sacrifice of all these martyrs, it becomes clear what true commitment to the leader means. In this sense, the month of June is the month of attachment to Rêber Apo, the month of true friendship with Rêber Apo. It can be considered as Rêber Apo's month. We remember with great respect and gratitude all these brave martyrs and through them all the martyrs of the revolution. We promise once again to continue their struggle to the end and to complete the great awakening they started for all peoples and women.
Zîlan's action was the greatest action of attachment to Rêber Apo
It is now 27 years since 30 June. However, it is not appropriate to look at 30 June as just an isolated action or a single expression of sacrifice. This action contains many meanings and messages. Some aspects of the action can be better understood by looking at the time in which it took place. In 1996, the plot against Rêber Apo manifested itself for the first time. A huge explosion occurred on the premises where Rêber Apo was located. In 1995, 1996, 1997 and especially 1998, there were intense military operations. In fact, from 1995 onwards, attempts were made to completely destroy the guerrillas, to attack and target their leadership. Our comrade Zîlan was one of the first to recognise this and oppose it. Her action was a reaction to this. She made it clear that Rêber Apo, the source of our hope, the representative of the essence of the revolution and the future of the peoples, is untouchable. It was an action that made clear how important it is to understand and follow Rêber Apo. In this sense, it was the greatest act of loyalty to Rêber Apo. In other words, it was an action that illustrated the importance of friendship with Rêber Apo.
Genocide directed against Armenians, Assyrians and Kurds
Of course, the action took place in Dersim. Now we are approaching the centenary of the Treaty of Lausanne, which established the Turkish Republic and imposed genocide on its peoples. This genocide was directed against Armenians, Assyrians and Kurds. Step by step, the genocide was put into practice. In Koçgirî, after the uprising of Şêx Seîd, in Ağrı and finally the uprising of Dersim, an absolute genocide was committed. Dersim was an impregnable fortress of the resistance. The biggest massacre took place in Dersim. In this way, it was meant to erase the essence of Kurdish identity and wipe the Kurds out as a people. The foundations of the republic were actually built on these genocides. The fact that Zîlan’s action was carried out in such a place also shows how difficult the path of revolution is in Kurdistan. It reveals the specificities of the Kurdish revolution. This is actually one of the meanings of the action. In a genocide-hit region like Kurdistan, there has been resistance for centuries. This means that in such a region, where such fierce attacks are taking place, this is the only way to defend oneself and show that one does not submit and does not let his will be usurped. This is the real way of the Kurdish revolution. Rêber Apo made this clear when he initiated the movement. Possibly, in this way, the Kurdish revolution has made its specificity even clearer. Our comrade Zîlan embodied the highest level of this line. Therefore, this has also opened up the possibility of giving the global revolutionary movement a pro-Kurdish identity.
The philosophy of Apoism makes the impossible possible
Our comrade Zîlan broke a tactical stalemate. We can describe her as a real Kurdish revolutionary. That is one dimension. In other words, she also set up a definition of what the methods of the Kurdish revolutionary struggle should be, what form the struggle should take and what the resistance should look like in the face of all the difficulties. It is a form of expression. The action carries a meaning in this sense.
As is known, the guerrillas were waging a war at the time. In this war, the Turkish army was indeed pushed back to a certain point. The Turkish army could not defeat the guerrillas. Therefore, it turned its attention to Rêber Apo. The aim was to destroy the guerrillas by liquidating their leader. This concept began at that time. The guerrillas were also stuck in a deadlock. There were repetitions. Despite the intense efforts of Rêber Apo to overcome this situation, there was no necessary breakthrough. Of course, there were actions. Although there were major actions in Zagros, Botan and various other places, they were repetitions that did not represent any further development. There was a danger of a vicious circle. It was on this basis that the struggle of our comrade Zîlan developed. Her breakthrough was also important to pave the way for further guerrilla struggle. It is the style of Apoism, the philosophy of Apoism that makes the impossible possible. That is the starting point of our movement.
This bomb exploded against the patriarchal mentality
Zîlan's action is actually an expression of her own will to reclaim life as a woman and recreate herself. In her search for herself, she exploded like a bomb. This bomb exploded against the traditional patriarchal mentality. It was a bomb that went against all traditional constraints. Zîlan thus proves the irreversibility of the level reached in the women's movement and the PKK. Zîlan explained and proved this through her own action. In other words, our demand for freedom is clear. We are ready to make sacrifices for this. Before her came women like Bêrîtan, Bêrîvan, Ronahî and young women like Rahşan from the people. Rêber Apo has already described them. 'If the path to freedom were easy, Ronahî and Bêrîvan would not have burned themselves.' Zîlan, as a continuation of this lineage, this being, this determination and attitude towards life, expresses that this process has become irreversible. In other words, freedom has been understood, realised and felt. After that, there is no way back. In this sense, Zîlan also marked the beginning of a new stage in the organisation of the women's movement.
In her letter, Zîlan talks about the search for meaning. She speaks of a meaningful life. In fact, this is also the way of life and the approach of Apoism. The search for a meaningful life, a right life and a life as a human being from childhood onwards, led to the emergence of the Apoist movement. This is shown in our comrade Zîlan at a very high level. We can see this action as the realisation of this search for meaning. It is not simply an action that was carried out because it is necessary to hit the enemy. Rêber Apo defines that action as a manifesto. Because there is a tremendous level of consciousness in it. It contains historical realisation, social realisation and a realisation of identity both as a woman and as a Kurd. In fact, the action is the answer to all these realisations and adversities. It is the act of rejecting these adversities and bringing forth what should be overcome. The power and will revealed here through Zîlan have indeed brought forth much else. These include, for example, the level that the Women's Army has reached, its influence around the world, its passion and hope that have taken hold not only of the women's movement but of democratic forces as a whole that are in search of freedom. When we see this, a lot has indeed been created, a lot has been developed.
We are the disciples of Zîlan
Life is dynamic, it flows unstoppably. The struggle is equally dynamic. In other words, it continues, progresses and evolves, adding new elements each time. The action of our comrade Zîlan initiated an irrevocable change in the attitude, the will of women and the building of the women's army. It brought about new developments. After the action, the building of the women's party was initiated. Later, with the KJK (Community of Women of Kurdistan), this form of building and developing its own autonomous women's system and internalising its own attitude was pushed even further. In the course of this process, the YJA Star, as the women's defence force, took the building of the women's army to a new level.
The liquidation efforts after 1999 attempted to destroy the movement. During this period, a tendency developed through these internal liquidation forces to instrumentalise women and to push back the place occupied by the women's army. Attempts were made to exert influence on women and to make them believe that they could now do other things and that it was inappropriate for women to fight. But we are the disciples of Zîlan. In her light we gain willpower. Therefore, these attempts to manipulate us have not had much effect. For we know how the values created came about on the level of war, of resistance. We know how to bring about these changes and improve life. We have seen it with our own eyes.
The only possible attitude towards fascism
Everyone has seen the footage of the comrades recorded in Mardin shortly before their death. These comrades were comforted because they knew what would come out of their fighting death. This is the meaning of taking the stance of a guerrilla fighter. This is basically true in all areas of struggle. In other words, there is no other attitude towards this fascism. For us, for the Kurds, for the peoples, the struggle is the most important determinant. Everybody has its task to fulfil. It is about clearly defining the position, the stand and the attitude. One must acknowledge one's identity and existence and fulfil the resulting tasks. In fact, Zîlan's appeal goes exactly in this direction. Everyone should consider this appeal from this point of view and act accordingly. That is our conviction. Any other attitude would be a betrayal of so many values that have been created. Neither time nor the existing conditions allow this. Either your mistakes will wipe you out or you will grow and develop with the values. That is the crucial thing about Zîlan's attitude. Because the attacks on us, the attempts to destroy us, are not only aimed at smashing the guerrilla in one place, but also the philosophy and the attitude towards life that it embodies. The aim is to eradicate this understanding of life. At the moment, the Turkish state is attacking women everywhere. In fact, everyone who has an attitude like Zîlan's is being attacked. Regardless of the price we have to pay, it is necessary to keep in mind the results created by the struggle and to engage accordingly. This is the message of Zîlan. This is true for every period, but especially for this period. As YJA Star, we will continue to be strong fighters in the spirit of our Commander Zîlan. We will do our best to be a beacon of hope for all women and peoples, and for this we will participate in all aspects of the struggle. We will show that we are Zîlan's disciples. At this point, we are determined. Our determination has been demonstrated by the brave women fighters over the last two years. We will live and fight according to our promise made to them."